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Evgeni Malkin Has Heartfelt Message for Penguins Fans



Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh Penguins

With the losses piling up, the playoffs fading into obscurity, and the trade deadline leaving the Pittsburgh Penguins dragging emotionally, Pittsburgh Penguins star center Evgeni Malkin had a message to the team’s fans Friday after practice.

“(Thursday) night, it’s not a great night for us,” the future Hall of Famer said of a 6-0 loss at home against the Washington Capitals during a session with reporters at his locker at the UPMC  Lemieux Sports Complex.

“I want to say sorry to fans because they paid (for) tickets. They come to the rink. And they see this game. It’s not great. We need to play harder for sure.”

That loss further depleted any slim hopes the Penguins have of making it to the playoffs. This would be the second straight year the team would sit out the postseason after a 16-year run that included three Stanley Cups and many years when they were considered a title contender.

Malkin, 37, and fellow franchise core players Sidney Crosby and Kris Letang are unaccustomed to the Penguins struggling and being sellers at the NHL trade deadline, which was Friday.

There is little question the Penguins dealt with heavy emotions in the Washington game, and their performance showed that.

That doesn’t mean Malkin is unhappy with the Penguins. President of hockey operations and general manager Kyle Dubas has said he has not asked any of the players with no-movement clauses, which includes Malkin, to waive those so they could be traded.

Malkin said if he wanted to be somewhere else, he would have done something about that a couple years ago instead of re-signing.

“We know it’s tough. It’s not fun,” Malkin said. “It’s 21 games left. We (need to) just play hard, play for the fans.”

As sellers, the Penguins shipped out top-line winger Jake Guentzel to Carolina on Thursday and steady defenseman Chad Ruhwedel to the New York Rangers just before practice Friday. Malkin, speaking a few hours before the trade deadline, wondered about trades either bringing in younger players or allowing for younger players in the franchise getting more playing time.

“Maybe a couple new guys will give us energy. Who knows?” he said. “Maybe now after the trade deadline the guys will not feel pressure anymore and play a little more relaxed and everybody plays better. Who knows?

“We still believe have not a big chance but we have a chance to make the playoffs.”

The Penguins sit 10 points out of third place in the Metropolitan Division, eight points out of a wildcard spot in the Eastern Conference. They head into a weekend with back-to-back games at Boston, which ranks second in the Eastern Conference, and at home against Edmonton, which spanked the Penguins 6-1 last Sunday (Malkin had their only goal).

“We need (to be in a) better mood for sure right now. It’s not easy to play every game. We play against Boston and Edmonton,” Malkin said. “We win (Tuesday) against Columbus, and then we play so bad (against Washington).

“We have great players here, but not a great team right now. We need to help each other and support each other.”